Monday, January 10, 2005

Juggling the Divisions 

By now, it is obvioius that having a high payroll dramatically increases your chances of making it to the playoffs.

This is not a big issue for an AL West fan. We can see that the Mariners will be near the top, the Angels and Rangers will spend the most, and the A's look to be the most creative.

But what if you were a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Too lookup up and see the Red Sox and Yankees spending well past the $100 million and $200 million marks has to be quite daunting. And then you look over at the AL Central and realize that you could easily outspend any one of those teams rather than ceding the division to Minnesota each year. Its gotta be frustrating.

Lets realign the divisions by seeding the teams based on the previous years payroll and see what that does to this financial disparity. We'll order the teams by their 2004 payroll, and then slot them into the existing divisions, using a serpentine draft model (down & back). Here's the American League, redrawn by Payroll Divisions.

American League
AL MostAL CentralAL Least
Yankees $182M (1)Boston $125M (2)Anaheim $101M (3)
Oakland $60M (6)ChiSox $65M (5)Seattle $81M (4)
Texas $55M (7)Minnesota $54M (8)Baltimore $51M (9)
Detroit $46M (12)Kansas City $48M (11)Toronto $50M (10)
Cleveland $35M (13)Tampa Bay $30M (14)

Who would complain about this realignment? Other than baseball purists and Indians fans, of course. Oakland gets the Yankees, but loses the Angels and Mariners as in-division competition. (Who knew that the A's had the 6th highest payroll in the AL?) Minnesota wouldn't like Boston in the division, but they still have the weakest division. Essentially there will never be more than one 300-pound gorilla in any division.

And wouldn't it be fun to see teams battling for payroll position to get out of the Yankees division the following year. At the trade deadline, the A's acquire Cliff Floyd from the Mets to guarantee that they jump ahead of the Chisox for 5th highest payroll and move to the AL Central... Great times, and a lucrative new Moneyball-style book on how the A's are smarter than everyone else.

This year, we'd be looking at Yankees, Red Sox, and Seattle (okay, we'll say Angels for now, but y'all know better) likely winning their division. This leaves Minnesota and Chicago, instead of getting a free pass that the AL Central usually is, having to battle with Oakland, Texas and Seattle for the Wild Card spot.

Would make for more interesting divisions every year, but obviously it will never happen. Still, its fun to look at (for me at least). Just for grins, here's the NL.

National League
NL MostNL CentralNL Least
New York Mets $101M (1)Philadelphia $93M (2)Chicago Cubs $91M (3)
San Francisco $82M (6)Atlanta $89M (5)Los Angeles $90M (4)
St. Louis $76M (7)Houston $75M (8)Arizona $70M (9)
Montreal $43M (12)San Diego $55M (11)Colorado $65M (10)
Cincinatti $43M (13)Florida $42M (14)Pittsburgh $32M (15)
Milwaukee $28M (16)

I'm looking forward to the day when enlightened baseball fans take on this new mantle of yearly division realignment. Heck, maybe we can create a single 30-team league at that time and have 6 5-team divisions. Nah, that's too crazy.

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